Insurance salesman, Woonsocket, R.I.
Family papers, 1780-1907. Bulk, 1839-1875
Size: 0.5 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 1010
Processed by: Rick Stattler, November 1997
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Reuel P. Smith (ca.1820-1898) was the son of Reuel and J.N. Smith of Middlebury, Vermont. As a youth, he settled in Boston and worked at a store. In 1839, at the age of 19, he moved to the village of Woonsocket Falls in Rhode Island, where he boarded with Lyman Cook and worked his way up in the textile industry. In 1856, he founded the successful Woonsocket Insurance Company. He married Laura L. Aldrich (daughter of Dutee and Hannah), and had a son, George R. Smith. George attended the Friends Boarding School in Providence (now the Moses Brown School). When George later joined the firm, it became R.P. Smith & Son. George married Sarah Jenckes in 1888; they had no children. George died in 1938.
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Scope and content:
The bulk of this collection consists of letters addressed to Reuel P. Smith between 1834 and 1853, mostly from his parents, his sister Clara, and other family members in Vermont and Massachusetts. Of particular interest is a letter by Reuel to his mother, describing his life as a boy on his own in Boston, 6/27/1835. A letter from a cousin discusses Reuel's imminent move to Woonsocket: "i asked Lyman what he thought about you comming to the falls he thought you would stand as good a chance as the rest to do business thare, Lorina wants you to come bord with her." A similar letter from his mother dated 3/18/1839 was less encouraging: "I am sorry you are going to place yourself in a position of so much responsibility at present, but I hope and trust you will prove yourself worthy the confidence reposed in you...you will be exposed to a great many temptations of which you are not aware...I believe there is an Episcopal Church in Woonsocket and i hope they have a good pastor." A 6/10/1839 letter from a New York friend, A.J. Cobb, asks for help in distributing his newspaper in Woonsocket. Only the following letters were actually written in Rhode Island (all dated Woonsocket):
Lyman A. Cook to RP Smith, 2/17/1840
Clara Smith to RP Smith, 9/7/1840
C.E. Slocum to RP Smith, several letters dated late in 1840, filled with local news.
G. Glackin? to RP Smith, 12/31/1841
E.H. Sprague to RP Smith, 3/2/1845
R.P. Smith to his wife Laura Smith, three letters dated 1871 while she was in Fall River
R.P. Smith to son G.R. Smith, 9/25/1874
"H.C.H." to G.R. Smith, 1/5/1875
Charles B. Staples to G.R. Smith, 3/18/1875, reporting that "Fred Sibley and Christopher Dun had a niggar show in Elliots Hall".
Earl H. Aldrich to cousin G.R. Smith, 3/25/1875 and 4/6/1875. Spelling bee at Woonsocket High School, boys vs. girls.
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These papers were the gift of Mrs. Arthur Merchant in 1997. The provenance can be traced as follows: R.P. Smith left them to his son George. George had no children and the papers came into the hands of his wife's nephew Austin Cook, who had been employed in R.P. Smith & Son, and who also who served as Smith's executor. Austin Cook left them to his daughter, whose husband Arthur Merchant also worked in the firm.
Also donated with these papers were three account books from David and Eliab Wilkinson of Smithfield. The relationship of the Wilkinsons to the Smith family remains unclear. The account books are filed separately under Wilkinson.
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Folder 1. R.P. Smith, letters received, 1834-1835 (while living in Boston)
Folder 2. R.P. Smith, letters received, 1838 (while living in Boston)
Folder 3. R.P. Smith, letters received, Jan. - June 1839 (in Woonsocket after March)
Folder 4. R.P. Smith, letters received, July - Dec. 1839
Folder 5. R.P. Smith, letters received, Jan. - April 1840
Folder 6. R.P. Smith, letters received, Sep. - Nov. 1840
Folder 7. R.P. Smith, letters received, 1841-1853
Folder 8. R.P. Smith, letters received, undated
Folder 9. Mrs. J.N. Smith (mother), letters received, 1835 and 1853
Folder 10. Laura Smith, letters received, 1871-1876
Folder 11. George R. Smith, letters received, 1874-1875 (while a student in Providence)
Folder 12. Hattie Silver Mining Company, deeds etc., 1865-1868
Folder 13. Aldrich and miscellaneous family deeds, 1824-1850
Folder 14. R.P. Smith deeds, 1862-1892
Folder 15. Smithfield documents, 1780-1828 (relationship to R.P. Smith unknown):
1780/03/27 Receipt, Overseer of the Poor of the town of Smithfield, to Benjamin Crosby for keeping Deborah Place.
1780/06/24 Bond, Hezekiah Sprague as tax collector to Uriah Alverson
1780/06/26 Enlistment certificate in six-month regiment, signed with mark by Levi Hix
1782/06/13 Bond, Thomas Jenckes as tax collector, to Uriah Alverson
1785/03/28 Receipt to Uriah Alverson for taxes paid on Caleb Greene estate.
1785/08/30 Promissory note from Uriah Alverson to John Phillips of Hartford
1789/08/25 Resolution to pay Andrew Waterman for attending Assembly.
1793/08/17 Resolution to pay Job Mowry for losses incurred in tax collection
1795/03/28 Order to pay Freeman & Riley (Office of Discount & Deposit)
1800/04/13 Order to pay McCullich & Birkhead (Bank of the United States)
1803/12/29 Order to pay Alexander Cochran (Office of Discount & Deposit)
1804/09/20 Order to pay John Janney of Virginia (Office of Discount & Deposit)
1805/11/18 Commission to Ahab Mowry, Mark Aldrich and David Mowry Jr. as tax collectors.
1807/05/08 Account for horsekeeping, dinners, etc., from unknown.
1828/06/21 Receipt, Rachel A. Aldrich to Dexter B. Aldrich for lumber.
1832-1844 Paid insurance claim of Thomas Sprague of Smithfield
Folder 16. Miscellaneous:
1846/05/18 Commission of R.P. Smith as paymaster of Woonsocket Guards
1846/09/18 Receipt, Providence Mutual Fire Insurance to Catherine McCoffrey
1846/12/03 Invitation to ball for Woonsocket Guards
1847/12/23 Invitation to ball for Woonsocket Guards
1848/10/02 Receipt to Catherine McCaffery for insurance
1866/10/01 Subscription list for highway to Woonsocket
1877-1880 Five stock sale documents, R.P. Smith
Undated Flier for Woonsocket Insurance Agency, R.P. Smith & Son.
In oversized storage: Six commissions as agent of various insurance companies, 1867-1907
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Hattie Silver Mining Company (Rhode Island and Nevada)
Insurance, Fire - Rhode Island - Woonsocket
Moses Brown School (Providence, R.I.)
Nevada - Land records
Smith, George R. (d.1938)
Smithfield, R.I. - Social life and customs
United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783
Woonsocket, R.I. - Social life and customs
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